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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update December 2011
There was plenty of jolliness and tons of merriness all around the conservation project during the month of December! We found ourselves getting into the Christmas spirit early on as we began planning a festive theme to our activities. This included diving in the warm tropical waters wearing santa hats and working out ways to bring the joy of the season into the local community and schools whilst continuing to focus our efforts on environmental education.
Diving Based Projects
Reef Check Survey
The volunteers participated in nine Reef Check surveys at eight different dive sites during December. This month the seas were calmer and the visibility clearer which makes it easier to count the key indicator species of fish, invertebrates and corals.
During the month we continued to record the deterioration of the hard corals, although soft corals such as sea fans and whip corals seem to be surviving.
We did find some rare species such as a red bass, pixy hawkfish and a pinkfish sea cucumber which we have never recorded before.
The best days diving was definitely on 28th December when on the first dive we counted five hawksbill turtles and an octopus was spotted on the second dive! It was an excellent day indeed!
Project AWARE – Dive Against Debris Survey
We carried out nine surveys this month. On all but one day we had bright and glorious sunshine with beautiful conditions for diving! We collected a hefty 24.5 kg of trash in total from the ocean floor and surface.
This month we resurfaced a lot of fishing line, tackle, lures and ropes. We also had to carefully cut away two large fishing nets that had been abandoned by fishermen when the nets got snagged on the reef.
The volunteer divers’ extra buoyancy practice with Linnea paid off as it took the volunteers all their buoyancy skills to work on removing these large pieces of net entwined around the coral, without causing further damage to the reef themselves.
This fishing gear damages the reef by coming into physical contact with the structure and substrate. The nets and lines become tangled and then they are pulled and tugged by the fishermen in an attempt to free them, causing irreparable damage to the reef as clusters of corals are broken off.
Our most interesting finds this month were a metal frame from a ladder and a plastic chair!
We were delighted not to find any trash at one site around Koh Haa island. Whilst at Poda Island we were sad as we collected what felt like a never ending amount of food wrappers and styrofoam containers floating on the surface. This comes from the packed lunches given to all the tourists that go to enjoy the beauty of Poda Island on day trips.
Land Based Projects
Our forest regeneration work with the Association for the Protection of the Environment began in December. We worked closely with the experts at FORRU (the Chiang Mai University Forestry Department) as they grow and monitor the low level tropical tree species.
We helped to make donation boxes from locally harvested bamboo and helped set up a large nursery which we will use to educate the local school children and community members, teaching them to respect their natural environment and to become guardians of the forest.
Beach Clean Ups
We cleaned up 3 beaches in December, including attending one clean up organised by the Local Administration’s National Department, where we joined over a hundred people from different schools, businesses, police, students and government officials to clear away over three tonnes of trash!
Our other beach cleans saw us collect 295 kg of trash, mainly plastic bottles and beer bottles which is indicative of the increase of tourists in the area in this high season.
Before Christmas we cleaned up all around the Dawn of Happiness and Ao Nammao Beach where our project and volunteer accommodation is based. The beach looked spotless in readiness for our community Christmas Dinner on the beach.
Endangered Species Work
As of December we are working on several projects with our local partner, the Phuket Marine Biological Centre. On 1st December we had the most amazing start to our work with them, releasing over 30 turtles and over 30,000 baby crabs and shrimp into the ocean on the beautiful island of Koh Lanta.
School and Community Project
On 24th December we hosted a Christmas party in the small village of Klong Thom. The party was held in the school grounds and over 60 children and parents turned up. We began by playing games such as musical chairs and balloon wars, then we threw in some conservation games where the children had to find pictures of indigenous bird species we had hidden, then identify the bird. They all worked in teams and there was a lot of giggles and laughter.
For lunch we all sat down to a traditional Thai meal cooked by the Village Housewives’ Group. Then we exchanged gifts by way of Secret Santa, receiving some random presents such as a glass bowl set, remote control car, towels and bright pink teddy bears!
On Christmas Day we held our monthly dinner and invited all the Thailand based volunteers, staff and the local community. A traditional roast dinner was prepared and, together with over 50 people, we ate on the beach, under the stars, in front of a bonfire. It was a magical experience and for many it was the best Christmas they had ever experienced.
As we are in such a great location for travel, it’s very easy for the volunteers to organise weekends away. This month all the volunteers headed to Phuket for the weekend, experiencing a very different and touristy side of Thailand!
Vishal took everyone on a kayak trip through the mangroves forests at Talan Bay, where they watched wild monkeys preen and play, saw eagles and even had a close encounter with a large monitor lizard!
It was my birthday on 15th December and everyone got together to organise a surprise pool party for me at a friend’s house. It was great fun with all the volunteers making sure that everyone ended up in the pool by the end of the night!
2011 ended with a bang – literally! As the volunteers headed in Ao Nang for a buffet dinner, followed by watching the incredible display of fireworks on the beach!
A magical end to an amazing year!
Conservation Director, Thailand